It appears that Israel may have essentially agreed to an arrangement under which massive quantities of weapons can be moved from Egypt into the Gaza Strip without interference so long as the weapons are not yet used against Israel.

This represents a major victory for the Palestinian position, as stated repeatedly by PA security chief Dahlan and other Palestinian officials, that they will not act against the terror infrastructure (“cocked guns”) but only against terrorist operations that are in violation of the “hudna” (“shooting guns”). [A “hudna” is a cease-fire period agreed to because the enemy is too strong. The idea is to amass enough power during the cease-fire period so that the enemy can be defeated when the cease-fire comes to an end.]

America’s official position is that while the PA should act against the terror infrastructure that it is expected to act when the PA security forces are strong enough and organized to act with no clear date or deadline for action.

According to the reports of the Israeli-Palestinian understanding reached with the assistance of the United States, the PA will be expected to act against “ticking bombs” and Israel reserves the right to act if the PA fails to adequately address the threat of a “ticking bomb.”

The Israeli justification for folding on the requirement that the PA act during the “hudna” period to collect weapons, etc., a requirement that enjoyed broad acceptance and understanding both in Israel and the United States, is that Israel considers the very fact that terrorist groups hold weapons to constitute a “ticking bomb”.

This approach is problematic since typically “ticking bombs” refers to incidents excepted to take place within a relatively short period of time. As long as a particular group does not use a given weapons system, American observers interested in showing “progress” can be expected to argue, their possession of the weapons does not itself constitute a “ticking bomb.”

Ironically, the greater the flow of weapons to the terrorists during the “hudna” period, the greater the incentive that they honor the cease-fire that enables them to continue arming.

The terms of the arrangement brokered by America are ideal for such a program: Israel is to halt all activity in the Palestinian Rafah area that might interfere with the operation of the smuggling tunnels used to transport weapons from Egypt to the Gaza Strip and will also allow Palestinian traffic to move undisturbed from Rafah to the remained of the Gaza Strip so that smuggled weapons can be easily distributed.

Egypt to date has, at best, ignored the existence of the smuggling operations from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. This policy has been costless to Egypt since Israeli governments have consistently declined to publicly criticize Egypt for this gross violation of Egypt’s failure to honor its treaty obligations to prevent such operations.

It should be noted that Egypt receives considerable praise from the United States for its role in encouraging the various terror groups to agree to a “hudna”. Egypt is also expected to continue playing a role to encourage these groups to comply with the “hudna”.

As noted above, the greater the flow of weapons to the terrorists during the “hudna” period, the greater the incentive that they honor the cease-fire that enables them to continue arming. Thus if Egypt believes it will continue to enjoy immunity from criticism regarding the operation of the terror tunnels it has every reason to help in expanding and expediting the smuggling operations during the cease-fire period.

How long will this operation continue? Will the Arabs be able to bring in enough weapons to turn the Gaza Strip into a second South Lebanon with thousands of rockets, etc. threatening as far as Tel Aviv just as Hizbullah threatens Haifa?

Some Israelis believe that the various terror groups won’t be able to hold themselves back and the arrangements will fall apart before a significant arming operation can be completed. This ignores that terrorist operations are more a problem of “spin” than anything else. As long as Dahlan himself isn’t filmed murdering an Israeli live on CNN anything else is a question of interpretation: “rogue operations”, “enemies of peace”, “Abu Mazen hurt as much as Israel” and “Dahlan’s forces are hot on the trail”.

Can Egypt be put into a position that it acts against the terror tunnels?

There is no indication that the Government of Israel intends to break close to a decade of silence on this serious problem. But that does not prevent friends of Israel (and for that matter friends of peace) from using their influence in this matter. It should be noted that Egypt enjoys considerable assistance that is subject to congressional approval.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel (+972-9) 760-4719/Fax (+972-3) 725-5730
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Website: IMRA